November 4, 2003
High school students encouraged to consider physical therapy careers
By Lisa Uzzle Gates
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—It’s hard to figure out what algebra and a wheelchair have in common, but Cathy Henderson shed some light on that for Northwest Rankin High School students recently.
Henderson of Flowood, spoke with Pat Luscomb’s honors algebra class about being a physical therapist. Henderson, a physical therapist at Methodist Rehabilitation Center, explained that math is a daily part of her job.
“I have all kinds of variables I use every day when I’m evaluating and working with patients. Their body weight, height, balance, there are a lot of variables that go into designing a rehabilitation plan for our patients,” Henderson told the class.
Henderson’s talk was the first in a series the hospital’s physical therapists are offering to area middle schools and high schools to spread the word about the profession.
“I didn’t realize there were so many areas of physical therapy,” Alison Harkins, 10th grade, said. Harkins said she is familiar with physical therapy because she has been a dancer for several years. She hopes to become a physical therapist and work in a sports related field.
The variety of the jobs offered in the field was a key part of Henderson’s message. In the more than seven years she has been practicing she has treated everything from stroke patients to patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease to those with traumatic brain injuries. But a few years ago she began specializing in spinal cord injuries and diseases.
She is one of eight physical and occupational therapists in the spinal cord program at the Jackson hospital. The specialty hospital has four programs dedicated to treating specific injuries and ailments—spinal cord, stroke, brain injury and surgery rehabilitation.
“I’m with patients six hours out of the day. I spend one hour a day one-on-one with each patient. You really get to know them and their families. I have to learn about their life before their injury and what they want to return to, so I can help them get back to as much of that as possible,” Henderson said. “I like people and that’s why I really enjoy this job. If you don’t like dealing with a variety of people, this is not the job for you.”
Lisa Barnes, therapy manager for the spinal cord program, said many people don’t realize the many specialties within physical therapy.
“That’s one reason for National Physical Therapy Month—which we just observed in October—to increase awareness of the profession and what we do,” Barnes said. She said therapy is a good option for those considering health related professions.
“It’s great because you have that one-on-one contact with patients and you work closely with the medical team, including the doctor, to develop the patient’s care plan,” she said.
Therapists from Methodist will also visit Chastain Middle School and Murrah High School in the coming weeks. For information on having a therapist speak at a school contact Barnes at 601-364-3388.
Methodist Rehabilitation Center is one of only 16 hospitals in the country designated as a Traumatic Brain Injury Model System by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and is only one of two in the state accepted into the prestigious Council of Teaching Hospitals. It is also the only hospital in the state to be named one of America’s best by US News and World Report.
For more information:
Therapists offer career glimpse | The Clarion-Ledger